"Didn't anyone call the cops?"
"What for? The ambulance came, you were already gone."
"I hate to break this to you," Alice says, "but if you drive away from the scene of an accident, it becomes a hit-and-run. If I were you..."
"But I wasn't running from anything. I drove straight here to the hospital. To see how you were."
"The police may look at that differently. Get on your cell phone again, dial 911, and tell them -- "
"Is it broken?" Jennifer asks, looking down at the cast.
"Yes, it's broken."
"You shouldn't have come around that corner so fast. There's a stop sign there. You should have at least slowed down."
"I did. But you walked right into the car."
"You seemed to be in some kind of a fog."
"Is that what you're going to tell the cops? That I was in some kind of a fog?"
"I'm not going to tell the cops anything."
"Well, I am," Alice says.
"Because I've had experience with insurance companies, thanks. And there are going to be hospital bills, and I want to go on record about what happened here. Especially if you're going to claim I was in a fog and walked into your car."
"I even blew my horn at you. You just kept walking."
"Jennifer, it was nice of you to come here, really, but I am going to report this to the police. You'd be smart to call them first. Otherwise you might find yourself facing criminal charges."
"Oh, don't be silly," Jennifer says. "Have you got a ride home?"
"No, but I'll call my office. My car's -- "
"I'd be happy to give you a ride."
Alice looks at her.
"My car's at the office," she says. "On Mapes Avenue. If you can take me there..."
"Oh sure," Jennifer says, and grins like a kid with a lollipop.
She doesn't get back to her house on the mainland until almost four that afternoon. She has extracted from Jennifer the promise that she will call the police, but she is eager to call them herself as well. She knows all about claims. She has filed enough insurance claims since Eddie drowned.
North Oleander Street resembles a jungle through which a narrow asphalt road has been laid and left to deteriorate. A sign at the street's opening reads dead end, appropriate in that North Oleander runs for two blocks before it becomes an oval that turns the street back upon itself in the opposite direction. Lining these two short blocks are twelve shingled houses with the sort of glass-louvered windows you could find all over Cape October in the good old days before it became a tourist destination for folks from the Middle West and Canada. The houses here are virtually hidden from view by a dense growth of dusty cabbage palm and palmetto, red bougainvillea, purple bougainvillea, white bougainvillea growing in dense profusion, sloppy pepper trees, pink oleander, golden allamanda, trailing lavender lantana, rust-colored shrimp plants, yellow hibiscus, pink hibiscus, red hibiscus, eponymous bottlebrush trees with long red flowers -- and here and there, the one true floral splendor of Cape October, the bird-of-paradise with its spectacular orange and bluish-purple crest.
Rosie Garrity greets her at the front door.
Round-faced and stout, in her fifties, wearing a flowered housedress and a white blouse, she glances down at Alice's foot, shakes her head, and says, "What happened to you?"
"I got run over," Alice says.
"Is it broken?"
"The ankle, yes. Where are the kids?"
"I thought maybe you'd picked them up."
"What do you mean?"
"They weren't on the bus."
"Oh dear," Alice says. "Was there a mix-up again?"
She limps into the kitchen, takes the phone from its wall bracket over the pass-through counter, and dials the school's number by heart. Someone in the administrative office picks up on the third ring.
From Alice in Jeopardy, chapter 1, pages 3-23. Copyright © 2005 by Hui Corp. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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